A growing number of people from nomadic regions and unemployed youth in Somaliland are turning to fishing as a livelihood after the government installed solar-powered cold storage facilities in six coastal areas.
According to local fishing cooperatives, at least 250 men from predominantly pastoral regions of Awdal, Sahil and Sanaag have joined the fishing industry in the past two months.
The Somaliland Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries has established refrigeration units in the coastal villages of Meydh, Hiis, Bullahaar, Sayla, Las-urweyne and Lasqoray, where fishermen can store their catch for a week or more at no cost.
Nasir Hashi Handulle, head of the fishermen’s cooperative in Bullahaar district of Sahal region, told Radio Ergo that 75 new members had joined them. He has hired four assistants this year to help him.
“The youth are now motivated to go into fishing, more people are coming to the area and the entire town is now turning to the sea as a viable source of livelihood,” Nasir said.
Big companies like Horn Fish are now transporting the fish from Bullahaar to sell in major towns like Hargeisa, Gebiley, Borama and Wajale.
Yusuf Nur Ismail, a young man from Hiis village, told Radio Ergo that after some doubt, he has realised what a good living he can earn from fishing.
“We started seeing fishing as a profitable venture and we are now transporting our catches to Berbera, Erigabo and even as far as Yemen,” he said.
Yusuf bought a boat using loans from relatives. He sells 500 to 1,000 kilos of fish a week. He fishes at night, stores the fish in the fridges, and sells them on Fridays in Berbera. After paying his three assistants and fuel costs, he makes around $300 profit a week.
He can support his wife and their 11 children – six daughters and five sons – and is investing in expanding the business.
“We are buying more equipment like boats and small freezers, and transport our catches to more and more villages and towns. Fishing has really transformed our lives,” said Yusuf.
Ismail Mire, Director of the Fishing Department, said the ministry is pleased with the results of the fish cold chain project, which was financed by the Somaliland Development Fund, with support from the European Union.
“Our intention is to reorient or redirect nomads who lost their livestock to a new livelihood; to encourage them to explore the hidden wealth of the sea and choose fishing as an alternative livelihood,” Mire explained.
Salah Said Mohamud, a long-time fisherman in Hiis, told Radio Ergo that he has also benefited from cold storage. He used to fry all his fish to prevent it from spoiling, but now he can transport up to 1,000 kilos a week to Berbera, the main fish market. From there, fish is sold for $1.5 per kilo in the big cities of Hargeisa and Burao.
“I used to feel I was stuck, but now I feel like I’m making progress. I am no longer worried about my fish going to waste because I know I can keep whatever amount of fish I catch in cold storage,” said Salah.
Salah has built a four-bedroom stone house for his family and bought a truck. He also pays for the education of his 14 children. There is dynamism in Somaliland’s fishing industry as a whole, as Salah observed:
“Anyone who has put the required effort into the fishing business has come out a winner. Fishermen have been able to expand their business, build houses and buy vehicles to transport their surplus stocks after keeping them refrigerated for as long as 10 days.”